First, I want to thank Mr. Leonard for taking the time to assess the situation at the El Con Golf Courses and for submitting his thoughts and ideas.
While I am in agreement with much of what Mr. Leonard has expressed, my only concern is that comparing Oro Valley’s town-owned golf course to a municipal golf course in Minnesota might not be comparing apples to apples. There is probably a whole different financial mechanism in place for the Minnesota municipal courses. For example, Oro Valley does not have a property tax, whereas the St. Paul and Minneapolis areas have high property taxes that can be used to subsidize their municipal golf courses.
I’m not aware of any municipal golf course (including Tucson's) that does not get some financial support from a property tax. Since Oro Valley doesn’t have one, the support of the 45 holes of golf, plus tennis and fitness, must come from the members and from the Town's sales tax. Currently, that funding has not been sufficient to support this fiscally irresponsible investment.
I agree that the current user base is inadequate for the course size. Mr. Leonard is also correct that the special resident rate that was promised to Oro Valley citizens was never implemented. There are two rates – the Member rate which is constant and the Non-Member rate which fluctuates depending on time of day and time of year.
Mr. Leonard is probably correct in his belief that the El Con courses are in the best shape ever, however, this is only when compared with their former condition but not when compared with other area golf courses such as Crooked Tree at Arthur Pack Memorial Park which is only 5 miles from Oro Valley. The Randolph and Del Urich municipal courses are also in great condition. (These two courses are managed by OB Sports.)
Mr. Leonard also mentioned that some of the initial capital costs/repairs are complete or are in progress. While this is true, the Town has actually not met its commitment of promised capital improvements. They promised $1,310,500 for golf capital improvements in FY 15/16 and spent only $77,000. They promised $1,282,500 for capital improvements in FY 16/17 and then budgeted only $125,000.
Unfortunately, the Town has reneged on many of the promises it made to the citizens when they were selling them on this deal.
Again, I appreciate Dick Leonard’s analysis and I hope that more Oro Valley citizens with knowledge of golf course operations will continue to stay involved in this ongoing saga.
Mike Zinkin is a long-time Oro Valley resident. He served as an elected member of the Oro Valley town council from 2012-2016. Mike is an expert on situation surrounding the El Conquistador Oro Valley Golf Course financial situation. He has long advocated that the situation be put on a sound financial footing.